Bob Dylan’s best songs: Simple Twist Of Fate

bob dylan 1974

[Simple Twist Of Fate]  conjures the smell of the air on an early spring morning…  Dylan on this album has become a master of textures. “Simple Twist of Fate” unmistakably creates the time, holds it, breathes it in, and stops it; the tools it uses to accomplish this arc storytelling, imagery, phrasing, timing, vocal texture, rhyme, melody, and ensemble sound. The bass playing (content, timing, attack) is revelatory. The harmonica solos sum up the song’s essence and push it out to the furthest corners of the universe.
~Paul Williams (Bob Dylan: Performing Artist, Vol 2: The Middle Years 1974-1986)

As ‘Girl From The North Country’ had been triggered by the breakup with Suze Rotolo, casting him back to an older affair, so ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’ set him reflecting not on Sara, but on Suze – hence the song’s subtitle in the notebook, ‘4th Street Affair’.
~Clinton Heylin (Still on the Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan Vol. 2, . 1974-2008)

bob dylan & suze rotolo

@ #49 on my list of Bob Dylan’s 200 best songs.

Facts:

Known studio recordings:

  • A&R Studios, NYC: September 16, 1974 – 5 takes
  • A&R Studios, NYC: September 19, 1974 – 3 takes, take 3 released on “Blood On The Tracks” (20 Jan 1975)

    Musicians:
    Bob Dylan (guitar, vocal)
    Tony Brown (bass)

    Produced by Bob Dylan
    Engineers: Phil Ramone & Glenn Berger (“Phil & Lenn”)

    –> check out: Bob Dylan: Blood On The Tracks, 4th Recording Session, 19 September 1974

Live:

  • First performed @ ‘The World of john Hammond’, Chicago IL, September 10, 1975
  • It has been performed 606 times live – last performance: Horncastle Arena, Christchurch, New Zealand – 10 September 2014
  • Top year was 2013 with 59 performances

Album:

Alternate released versions

  • live @ Nippon Budokan Hall, Tokyo, Japan – 28 February 1978 – released on “Bob Dylan at Budokan” (April 23, 1979)
  • live @ Harvard Square Theatre, Cambridge, MA 11/20/75 – released on “The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue” (November 26, 2002)

‘Simple Twist of Fate’ is another absolutely extraordinary performance. Where ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ is bright, bouncy, jangly, ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’ is soft and warm and mournful. Dylan’s voice is.. gentle and rounded.
~Paul Williams (Bob Dylan: Performing Artist, Vol 2: The Middle Years 1974-1986)

Lyrics

They sat together in the park
As the evening sky grew dark
She looked at him and he felt a spark tingle to his bones
’Twas then he felt alone and wished that he’d gone straight
And watched out for a simple twist of fate

They walked along by the old canal
A little confused, I remember well
And stopped into a strange hotel with a neon burnin’ bright
He felt the heat of the night hit him like a freight train
Moving with a simple twist of fate

A saxophone someplace far off played
As she was walkin’ by the arcade
As the light bust through a beat-up shade where he was wakin’ up,
She dropped a coin into the cup of a blind man at the gate
And forgot about a simple twist of fate

He woke up, the room was bare
He didn’t see her anywhere
He told himself he didn’t care, pushed the window open wide
Felt an emptiness inside to which he just could not relate
Brought on by a simple twist of fate

He hears the ticking of the clocks
And walks along with a parrot that talks
Hunts her down by the waterfront docks where the sailors all come in
Maybe she’ll pick him out again, how long must he wait
Once more for a simple twist of fate

People tell me it’s a sin
To know and feel too much within
I still believe she was my twin, but I lost the ring
She was born in spring, but I was born too late
Blame it on a simple twist of fate

He’d already started changing the lyrics when he debuted it @ WTTW-TV Studios, Chicago, Illinois – 10 September 1975.

On the final verse of the version he debuted on a TV tribute to John Hammond, he is again stuck at the docks, but this time he feels ‘She should have caught me in my prime I She would have stayed with me I ‘Stead of going back off to sea I And leaving me to meditate.’
~Clinton Heylin (Still on the Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan Vol. 2, . 1974-2008)

The lyrics changed all time times, but most so in 1984. Here are the Paris,  France, July 1, 1984 version:

They sat together in the park
As the evening sky got dark
She looked at him and felt a spark tingle to her bones
And then she felt alone and wished that she’d gone straight
And watched out for a simple twist of fate.

They walked along by the old canal
Down waterfront street, by the old bell
Stopped into the Grand Hotel where the desk clerks dress in white
With a face as black as night he said “Check out time’s at eight”
All a part of a simple twist of fate.

He woke up and the room was thick
Something there inside was making him sick
He heard the boot heels in the hallway click, the sun was coming up
She dropped a coin into the cup of a blind man at the gate
And forgot about that simple twist of fate

________ __________ in the rain and snow
________ coal fire and the chilly winds blow
He said “I taught you all you know, now, don’t bother me no more.”
“You know where to find the door. Go on, before it’s too late”
“And forget about that simple twist of fate”

He’s walking down through the city streets,
Looking into the eyes of the people he meets
And late in time, you know, he tries and greets he waited all I can do
He said “I’m leaving my heart with you, take good care of it, be on your freight”
“All about that simple twist of fate”

People tell me it’s a crime
To remember her for too long of a time
She should have caught me in my prime, she should have stayed with me
Instead of going back off to sea and leavin me to meditate
About that simple twist of fate.

In 1987 Dylan started performing the original lyrics of all the “Blood On The Tracks” songs he still played in concert.

And still, vestiges of the song’s beating heart remained well into the Never Ending Tour, Dylan rarely failing to invest this, one of his most personal songs, with power and passion.
~Clinton Heylin (Still on the Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan Vol. 2, . 1974-2008)

Some more live versions

Le Zenith
Paris, France
23 February 1993

Spektrum Oslo
Norway 30 June 2011

KunstRasen Gronau
Bonn, Germany
4 July 2012

Spektrum
Oslo, Norway
10 October 2013

Richmond, Virginia
Altria Theater
April 12, 2015

 

[Simple Twist Of Fate is] another track that seem to loop around itself in endless recurrences. A movie you can watch in your mind every time you hear the song. The bare rendition suits the words, as does Dylan’s extraordinary reading, picking out every syllable and singing as if in a reverie.
~Brian Hinton (Bob Dylan: Album File and Complete Discography)

Check out:

Sources: 

-Egil

One thought on “Bob Dylan’s best songs: Simple Twist Of Fate”

  1. She should have caught me in my prime.
    She would have stayed with me
    ‘Stead of going back off to sea
    And leaving me to meditate.
    Huh?
    Wow, thanks for the awesome alternate version!

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